February 23, 2015 By John Baimba Sesay in Beijing
Sierra Leonean students pursuing different fields of academia in various cities in the People’s Republic of China on Thursday, 19th February kicked off their annual convention in Beijing, an event bringing students together to discuss issues of interest to their welfare. The theme for this year’s event is: “Effect of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the three Mano River Union countries with Particular Focus on Sierra Leone”.
Deputising Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh, Sierra Leone’s Deputy Ambassador to China, Alice Kumba Momoh, in her address said prior to the outbreak of the EVD, Sierra Leone had been a lead player in the Mano River Union and her belief in the democratic process and respect for human rights was and is still admirable. “The Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma had instituted effective public sector reforms … our domestic and international performances are admirable and in the right direction,” she said. “The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology through the leadership of Dr. Minkailu Bah had reviewed and improved on the Sierra Leone Grant-in-Aid, especially for Sierra Leonean students overseas.”
The Ebola outbreak, she said, saw a number of the country’s international partners standing by Sierra Leone, whilst expressing gratitude to them “and especially to the Chinese Government and the Chinese people for their wonderful assistance to Sierra Leone in the fight against Ebola”. The situation, she said, has been considerably put under control as President Koroma has lifted inter-district travel restrictions; the incidence of outbreaks and contractions have been limited to Freetown and its immediate environs in decreasing trend.
“The government of President Koroma has provided stout leadership to fight Ebola,” she said.
Speaking further, Madam Momoh noted that the Ebola outbreak has affected every aspect of society, including the social life of Sierra Leoneans.
“Our expression of love by cultural embraces and handshakes has been interrupted. The temporal travel restrictions set families apart and some families may live with that separation forever. The Education Sector which is the worst affected has witnessed unwanted teenage pregnancies and alternative engagements are recording many young people dropping out of school. Agricultural activities have been abandoned because of Ebola. Majority of Sierra Leoneans are today without adequate food,” she said.
According to the envoy, families have lost loved ones, children who survived their parents continue to suffer the harsh realities of life, and economic activities have come to a halt since the outbreak.
“Trade and investment, mining, transports…have been brought to a standstill. Our international stature has been dwarfed with restrictions on flights to and from Sierra Leone and the sub-region. Most painful has been the great loss of patriotic members of our medical profession. But even worse is the stigma Ebola bears on the dignity of the Sierra Leonean,” she noted.
As a result of this, Madam Momoh said government has committed huge unbudgeted expenditure to the fight against the virus as the country’s medical sector has been invigorated with both national and international support. “Government has put mechanisms in place to ensure improved medical facilities throughout the country. Facilities are put in place to boost our district medical service. More healthcare facilities are being provided, and existing facilities are revamped to provide easy and better healthcare access for every Sierra Leonean, everywhere,” she said.
Assuring the students, Madam Momoh said the government will not abandon its efforts to improve upon wage packages in Sierra Leone to maintain and attract trained personnel, as “human resource development shall receive greater emphasis to upgrade our country’s work force with competent and qualified Sierra Leoneans in all fields, especially in the medical field”. She appealed to students to go back home and contribute to the recovery scheme after their studies in China.
Chairing the opening session was Dennis Kargbo, a post-graduate student.
The climax of the convention shall be the election of a new executive that will push the affairs of the union for the next one year.
Meanwhile, two aspirants have declared their interest for the presidency, namely Adikali Sesay (PhD candidate) and Abdulai Fallah Tengbeh, pursing a post-graduate Master’s degree.